Monday, August 30, 2010


Mr X quoted in the report below...
[Mr X] said leading universities should admit bright teenagers from poor homes with lower A-level results than their middle-class peers in an attempt to boost social mobility.

As students across Britain continue to battle for remaining university places, [Mr X] said admissions tutors in subjects such as law and medicine should increasingly judge candidates on their “potential”.

“All of our leading professions are essentially full of people who have [come] from a relatively small number of elite schools into the most competitive universities with three As at A level,” he said. “I want the medical profession and the legal profession to have a diversity of people in them.”

... is:
  1. LibDem
  2. Tory
  3. Labour
  4. the daemon Asteroth, also known as Harriet Harman

Answers in the comments, please. Bonus points if you can tell me a) who it is, and b) how the hell we can hunt these bastards down and finally eradicate them.

Yes, you were correct—and fast!

Mr X is, in fact, Mr David "Two-Brains" Willetts, the Coalition Moron currently in charge of Higher Education, as reported in the Telegraph; the excellent Counting Cats in Zanzibar fillets these ridiculous proposals in more detail.

And they are stupid proposals. But if the universities also think that they are stupid, it's just tough tits—they shouldn't have taken the state shilling in the first place, should they? After all, the state tries to use state provided services to force us what to do and how to live—and we've paid for the bastard services in the first place...

UPDATE: A&E Charge Nurse has weighed in with a comment that I can totally appreciate...
"And they are stupid proposals" - no they're not, Willets is right and YOU are wrong.

Exam results may reflect intelligence, but only in part. The best grades are achieved (in the main) by kids from the better schools with all of the extra curricular support on offer to them (private tutors, laptops, mates with enough house space for them to gather, etc).

Generally these children become much more adept at playing the game, in other words they are better at anticipating which boxes need to be ticked, then ticking them off (with a Ronaldo type wink to Mum or Dad for writing up 50% of their course work).

My oldest starts at Bristol Uni in a few weeks (after a gap year) her sib achieved x3 A's (inc A*) at A-level and is applying to Cambridge - neither are particularly clever but instead reflect the dreadful cynicism that pervades education when enquiring minds are reduced to exam jockeys.

A poor kid living in a dangerous neighbourhood from a single parent family, who achieves Bs or Cs at A-level is just as worthy of a top Uni place as yet another candidate from the middle class production line whose grades are a result of the advantages that the majority of working class children can only dream about.

Until we have a level playing field the self evident situation described by Willetts will continue in perpetuity.

As long-time readers will know, I have little respect for the value of a university education. I did enjoy university, and I did learn the beginnings of my craft there. It was just nothing to do with what I was studying.

Reliable temperature records

You may not know this, but for some time the IPCC and other Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change (CACC) charlatans have claimed that one of the areas of the world that is warming the fastest is Nepal (which is in the Himalayan area, thus proving that CACC is threatening all the glaciers, and so on and so forth).

Via Climate Skeptic, I see that Willis Eschenbach has a guest post up at Watt's Up With That examining the claim of record warming. What he has found is pretty interesting but—to those of us who have been studying this stuff over the last few years—hardly surprising.
I read the excellent and interesting guest post by Marc Hendrickx about the IPCC and the Himalayas. My first big surprise was the size of the claimed warming. He cites IPCC Table 10.2 which says:
Nepal: 0.09°C per year in Himalayas and 0.04°C in Terai region, more in winter

Well, my bad number detector started ringing like crazy. A warming of nine degrees C (16°F) per century in the mountains, four degrees C per century in the lowlands? … I don’t think so. Those numbers are far too big. I know of no place on earth that is warming in general at 9°C per century.

So, that was my second surprise – a whole dang country, and only one single solitary GHCN temperature station. Hmmmm … as Marc shows, the paper cited by the IPCC gives the records of a dozen stations in Nepal. So why does GHCN only use Kathmandu in Nepal?

A good question and one that remains (charitably) unanswered for this post (clue: "an untruth. Rhymes with "flies"). Regardless, Willis decided to go and look at the NASA GISS datasets for Nepal and there were a few more surprises in store.

The first is that there are three datasets, not one of which overlaps in any year. Not one. Why is this relevant?
This means that the apparent overall trend may not be real. It may simply be an artefact of e.g. different thermometers, or different locations. In this case, GISS has side-stepped the question by selecting only one record ... for the final record.

This record runs from 1961 to 1980. Usually, GISS's minimum cut-off is twenty years, i.e. any continuous record less than that is not counted as valid, but I suppose that 19 years is not too far off.

The trouble is that the valid record has a downward trend. Which is a bit awkward if you want to show that the world is warming. So, what do you do?

That's right: you do some statistical analysis on the raw data to bring it up to scratch, and you publish this as the final data “after cleaning/homogeneity adjustment”. And, oddly, after the “after cleaning/homogeneity adjustment”, the graph now shows a warming trend—and a big one at that!

Figure 4. GISS Kathmandu Airport Annual Temperatures, Adjusted and Unadjusted, 1961–80. Yellow line shows the amount of the GISS homogeneity adjustment in each year. Photo is of Kathmandu looking towards the mountains.

GISS has made a straight-line adjustment of 1.1°C in twenty years, or 5.5°C per century. They have changed a cooling trend to a strong warming trend … I’m sorry, but I see absolutely no scientific basis for that massive adjustment. I don’t care if it was done by a human using their best judgement, done by a computer algorithm utilizing comparison temperatures in India and China, or done by monkeys with typewriters. I don’t buy that adjustment, it is without scientific foundation or credible physical explanation.

At best that is shoddy quality control of an off-the-rails computer algorithm. At worst, the aforesaid monkeys were having a really bad hair day. Either way I say adjusting the Kathmandu temperature record in that manner has no scientific underpinnings at all. We have one stinking record for the whole country of Nepal, which shows cooling. GISS homogenizes the data and claims it wasn’t really cooling at all, it really was warming, and warming at four degrees per century at that … hmmm, four degrees per century, where have I heard that before …

What conceivable scientific argument supports that, supports adding that linear 5.5°C/century trend to the data? What physical phenomena is it supposed to be correcting for? What error does it claim to be fixing?

Finally, does this “make a difference”? In the global average temperature, no – it is only one GHCN/GISS datapoint among many. But for the average temperature of Nepal, absolutely – it is the only GHCN/GISS datapoint. So it is quite important to the folks in Nepal … and infinitely misleading to them.

And when it is cited as one of the fastest warming places on the planet, it makes a difference there as well. And when the IPCC puts it in their Assessment Report, it makes a difference there.

Once again we see huge adjustments made to individual temperature records without reason or justification. This means simply that until GISS are able to demonstrate a sound scientific foundation for their capricious and arbitrary adjustments, we cannot trust the final GISS dataset. Their algorithm obviously has significant problems that lead to the type of wildly unreasonable results seen above and in other temperature datasets, and they are not catching them. Pending a complete examination, we cannot know what other errors the GISS dataset might contain.

Many people—including your humble Devil—have been banging on about this problem for some time: the world may well be warming. It might not. Ultimately, until we can see and verify reliable datasets, we don't actually know.

Of course, we could trust the scientist chappies... They know what they're doing, let's leave it to them, eh?

The trouble is that as people delve into the raw figures (when they can be found—remember how good CRU were at "losing" or "wiping" their original data), they keep turning up more and more anomalies. Which is why we also want the various climatologists (I won't dignify them with the epithet "scientists") to release the computer programmes and algorithms that they have used to make the adjustments.

The climatologists, of course, don't want to—and after seeing the HARRY_READ_ME.txt file, I think that we can all understand why.

But, as Bishop Hill laid out so clearly and repeatedly in his excellent book, The Hockey Stick Illusion (I really cannot recommend it highly enough, by the way), these people are not statisticians and the methods that they use for normalising and analysing their data are often not appropriate.

In any case, an addendum to Willis's post posits an explanation for the weird Kathmandu trend: that it is being averaged with the two closest stations, Tingri and Dumka, neither of which are actually in Nepal, and which both have their own problems—not least the fact that they are at considerably different altitudes.

Tingri has an elevation of 6,000 metres, Dumka an elevation of 250 metres. Averaging them with Kathmandu at 1,300 metres elevation makes perfect sense, eh?
The problem arises from the big jump in the Tingri data around 1970. Using the reference station method, that big jump gets wrapped into the average used to adjust the Kathmandu data. And over the period of Tingri/Kathmandu overlap (1963-1980), because of the big jump the “trend” of the Tingri data is a jaw-dropping 15°C per century. Once that is in the mix, all bets are off.

Obviously, there is some kind of problem with the Tingri data. The first difference method takes care of that kind of problem, by ignoring the gaps and dealing only with the actual data. You could do the same with the reference station method, but only if you treat the sections of the Tingri data as separate stations. However, it appears that the GISS implementation of the algorithm has not done that …

Nor is this helped by the distance-weighting algorithm. That weights the temperatures based on how far away the station is. The problem is that Tingri is much nearer to Kathmandu (197 km) than Dumka (425 km). So any weighting algorithm will only make the situation worse.

Finally, does anyone else think that averaging high mountain tundra temperature anomalies with lowland plains anomalies, in order to adjust foothills anomalies, is a method that might work but that it definitely would take careful watching and strict quality control?

Unfortunately, statistical analysis—let alone careful monitoring and strict quality control—does not seem to be the forte of our intrepid climatologists.

And, once again, we encounter the same problem: the figures are quite simply unreliable. Now, it may be that overall the Earth is warming—satellite data (which is, again, adjusted and has, besides, had problems of its own) would seem to suggest that there was a slight warming trend from 1979 (when satellite measurement started) to about 2000—but you certainly cannot make averaged data over hundreds of miles apply to a small area and ignore the actual readings from that area!

Of course, it wouldn't matter quite so much if these people weren't attempting to change our entire economic system based on these figures—but they are. As such, we have to be absolutely certain that there is not only something to worry about but also that if there is, then we take the right steps to deal with it.

Our politicians (and the other massive beneficiaries from such schemes as cap and trade) recommend mitigation now over adaptation later; even the IPCC has decided to ignore its own SRES reports. And that most definitely has nothing to do with IPCC head, Rajendra Pachuri, being heavily invested in the mitigation schemes. None at all—and you'd be a fool and a climate denier to suggest such a thing.

To summarise, our politicians are pursuing a course based on the Precautionary Principle but ignoring the fact that there are costs to acting—and they are colossal (whereas the Precautionary Principle only recommends acting if the costs are insignificant or zero). And the cost isn't only to our energy bills (or, indeed, our energy supply): it's the fact that lots of poor people will die.

As regular readers will know, I favour the IPCC's SRES A1 family of scenarios: these recommend increased global trade and technology exchange which ensures that everyone on the planet is so rich—"current distinctions between "poor" and "rich" countries eventually dissolve"—that we can adapt if there is a problem.

The advantage of the A1 approach is that we can carry on getting rich (and if governments would pursue high growth with the same zeal with which they are pursuing Green taxes, then we could get richer much more quickly) and if—if—anything happens, then we can deal with it.

What we should not be doing is slowing growth, raising taxes and killing poor people on the strength of figures that are at best rather dodgy and, at worst, wildly inaccurate.

Total Politics Blogger Profile

A couple of weeks ago, your humble Devil did a quick interview with Total Politics for their regular Blogger Profile feature—the results can be seen over at the TP site.

These things are always quite short and—damn it!—I'm a complex man, but it was quite fun to do. I'm not tremendously eloquent on telephones (which I hate) and I don't seem to have said anything too stupid.

I am happy to see that they didn't reflect my indecision when asked who my political idol was. I was slightly caught off-balance since I don't really have one, to be honest. Adam Smith was one that sprang to mind, but I didn't expand on why: however, should you be interested, the real reason that I think that Adam Smith's contribution is so important was his recognition that people are driven by self-interest—biology captured in economics...

Steve Baker MP: Blog Mascot

Steve Baker MP: sound as a pound. Er... well... actually, even though he's an MP he's not that bankrupt.

Having noticed that Dick Puddlecote has adopted Philip Davies MP as his "blog mascot"—and lacking allegiance to any football team—your humble Devil has decided to adopt his own Member of Parliament Mascot. Obviously I toyed with supporting the ever-excellent and increasingly-disillusioned Douglas Carswell, but he's getting to be an old hand these days; I decided that it might be more fun to pick someone who has been newly elected to the House, who is also a libertarian, and who I know personally (at least vaguely).

So, the only man who fits the bill is Steve Baker MP.

I've met Steve on a few occasions—usually around the free market, libertarian think-tank arena—and he seems to be a nice chap. Further, he is a dedicated libertarian and is particularly concerned with the entirely relevant topic of monetary reform.

Not only is he part of the Executive of the Progressive Conservatives (which is full of sound people (and whose website I threw together at speed last year)) and on the Advisory Board of sound money think-tank The Cobden Centre, his maiden speech advocated total reform of fiat currency and fractional reserve banking.
Today, money is a product of the state. The Bank of England controls the price, quantity and quality of money. Perhaps if we were talking about any other commodity, there would be far less confusion over and questioning of the cause of the crisis. If money is a product of the state, we should ask ourselves, "Is this a good idea?"

In the coalition, we have a Government ideally suited to be conservative to preserve what is good, but radical to change all that is bad. If we are to have a once-in-a-generation, fundamental review of the role of government, let us also examine government's role in the system of money and bank credit.

As regular readers will know, I am yet to be convinced on certain aspects of monetary reform but, working on the principle that the state is shit at everything that it does, it does seem slightly bonkers to allow it to have a grip on the life-blood of our trade. Apart from anything else, it not only makes it easier for the government to collect taxes and then to inflate away our savings, it also enables these bastards to reach into every aspect of our lives.

Anyway, monetary reform is obviously one of Steve Baker's bug-bears and it is, at least, better than spending your life stealing people's money in order to be able to dish it out to enable one-legged, black, lesbian salmon to buy bikes (being Harriet fucking Harman, in other words). Steve has a very interesting (and slightly scary) article on Centre Right, and is mentioned in despatches on the IEA Blog too.

In conclusion, Steve Baker will be this blog's MP mascot—whether he likes it or not—which means that I shall be following his progress with a keen and cynical eye. Although I don't expect to see Steve in Parliament wearing a Devil's Knife t-shirt any time soon...

Mmmmm. Salty...

Leg-Iron points to the deliciously-named WASH—World Action on Salt and Health—whose aims are as follows:
World Action On Salt and Health (WASH) was established in 2005 and is a global group with the mission to improve the health of populations throughout the world by achieving a gradual reduction in salt intake. WASH will encourage multi-national food companies to reduce salt in their products and will work with Governments in different countries highlighting the need for a population salt reduction strategy. The overall aim is to bring about a reduction in salt intake throughout the world by reducing the amount of salt in processed foods as well as salt added to cooking, and at the table.

Yes, it's another bunch of interfering busybodies who seem utterly incapable of keeping their fucking noses out of other people's business. Their UK arm is called—without any irony, apparently—CASH, or Consensus Action on Salt and Health.

Inevitably, CASH is a fake charity—11.2% of its income [PDF] came from the taxpayer in the form of a grant from the Food Standards Agency.
Voluntary income
Birds Eye: £1,000
British Heart Foundation: £2,500
Food Standards Agency: £23,500
Heart Research UK: £10,000
McCain Foods (GB) Ltd: £1,000
Marks and Spencer: £1,200
Nissan UK Ltd: £168,000
Walkers Snacks Ltd: £1,000
Total: £208,200

As for the other donors... Well, we all know how this works, don't we? It's extortion with menaces, basically. The only reason that the amounts are so small, at present, is because the organisation is pretty small. As they grow in size, so will the menaces and thus the "donations". (Although, I must confess, that I haven't a clue why Nissan gave so much.)

Salt—sodium chloride (NaCl)—is pretty vital to humans. It is crucial in regulating our cells' osmotic potential (thus keeping them at the correct pressure) and it is also used (alongside potassium chloride) for generating the electrical currents in our nervous system (through action potential). As with a good many things, too much can cause salt poisoning—but, as Leg-Iron points out—too little will kill you.
In a recent New Scientist article, one of their drones derided all salt deniers as being in the pay of the salt industry. No imagination, these Righteous. They even struggle to come up with different names for their fake charities. Their methods are always exactly the same.

Their only aim in this case is the eradication of salt from the diet, which will kill even more people than the NHS have managed. Oh, it doesn't matter to them. It's not about health. None of it ever was. It's about getting people to do as they are told. Even if it kills them.

Indeed. Further, the problem is that there is simply no need for organisations like WASH (or the hilariously-named CASH): the body is very good at excreting substances that might harm it or for which it has no need (apart from certain Heavy Metals, which are poisonous through accretion). Salt is mainly excreted in urine or, to a greater extent, in sweat.

And, via The Englishman, there is (to be charitable) very little evidence that excess salt (rather than suicidal doses of it) causes any damage at all.
In fact, while there have been more than 17,000 studies published on salt and blood pressure since 1966, even following populations for decades, none has shown notable health benefits for the general population with low-sodium diets. According to Dr. David Klurfeld, Ph.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at Wayne State University, editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, “the better controlled studies fail to show a significant benefit on blood pressure for large groups with sodium restriction.”

So, might I suggest that WASH, CASH and all of the other wastes of time and money shut the fuck up?

I wouldn't go abroad if I were you

Theresa May: Home Secretary and an evil, loathsome woman.

Having woken up to the existence of the European Arrest Warrant, Iain Dale shows a touching faith in Our New Coalition Overlords™ in his confident assertion that they will do something about the disgusting injustices visited on British citizens under this legislation.
And if Theresa May is the woman I think she is, she will pick up the phone to her Greek counterpart tomorrow morning and ask him to put right this apparent massive injustice.

Go on Theresa. You know you want to.

If Theresa May is the woman that I think she is, she will sit on her fat arse and do fuck all. Theresa May couldn't give two fucks about the rights of British citizens, and nor do the rest of the Coalition: as many of us have said for years, the only thing that the Tories and their massively-foreheaded twat of a leader care about is power. And not power to be wielded on behalf of the citizens who they are supposed to serve: no, it's power for themselves.

So, much as I wish it were otherwise, I am damn sure that Theresa May will do fuck all... Oh, wait... I'm wrong.
Theresa May has recently extended the powers of the EAW by signing up to the European Investigation Order. I hope she understood what she was doing.

Yes, Iain: she knew precisely what she was doing—following the Coalition's well-publicised plan of falling into line under the EU jackboot. Did you ever—seriously—think that they were going to do anything else?

We all saw which way the wind was blowing when Cameron refused to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution Lisbon Treaty. Oh, yes: and we also knew that the Tories would be more than happy to knuckle down because Call Me Dave is a spineless, ball-less sack of shit.

Iain has the good grace to apologise for his extreme lateness to this particular party...
I feel rather guilty that this is the first time it has come across my radar, but I suspect I am not alone.

That's as may be, Iain, but I can tell you that these arseholes who have inveigled themselves into government knew all about it. After all, as Trixy highlighted in June 2008, some of the cunts voted for it. [Emphasis—of well-known figures in the British politics—mine.] (It's also worth noting that Trixy first highlighted Andrew Symeou's case in July 2008.)
Whilst we are debating the decision of David Davis and Magna Carta (which some of us are) Some home truths:

European Arrest Warrant.
The European Arrest Warrant (EAW, or more rarely, EUAW) is an arrest warrant to allow the arrest of criminal suspects and their transfer for trial or detention which is valid throughout the states of the European Union (EU). The EAW is an attempt to increase the speed of extradition throughout EU countries, as well as change the mechanism from having a "political and administrative phase" into a system run by the judiciary.

Rapporteur: Graham Watson, Liberal Democrat MEP

In favour:

[Lib Dems]
Nick Clegg, Chris Davies, Andrew Duff, Chris Huhne, Sarah Ludford, Liz Lynne, Bill Newton-Dunn, Nicholson of Winterbourne, Graham Watson

Sir Robert Atkins, Chris Beazley, John Bowis, Philip Bradbourn, Philip Bushill-Matthews, Martin Callanan, Giles Chichester, Den Dover, James Elles, Jonathan Evans, Robert Goodwill, Dan Hannan, Malcolm Harbour, Chris Heaton-Harris, Roger Helmer, Caroline Jackson, Timothy Kirkhope, Edward McMillan Scott, Neil Parish, John Purvis, Robert Sturdy, David Sumberg, Charles Tannock, Theresa Villiers.

Gordan Adams, Michael Cashman, Richard Corbett, Robert Evans, Glyn Ford, Neena Gill, Mary Honeyball, Richard Howitt, Stephen Hughes, Glenys Kinnock, Eryl McNally, David Martin, Ben Miller, Simon Murphy, Mel Read, Catherine Stihler, Gary Titley, Mark Watts, Philip Whitehead

[Respectively Plaid Cymru, SNP and Green]
Jill Evans, Ian Hudghton, Jean Lambert


Nigel Farage, Jeffrey Titford

You might have recognised some names up there, most notably Clegg and Huhne—noble fighters for civil liberties, eh? All of the people who voted in favour of the European Arrest Warrant are traitors to the British people, enemies of liberty and colossal shitbags who should be put in a gibbet and eaten by crows.

Anyway, to explain why the European Arrest Warrant is so very bad—and to highlight the hypocrisy of our lords 'n' masters—Timmy's comment at Iain's is concise and coherent so I've replicated it in full.
Yes Iain, I think you're being a little off the ball here in stating that Gilligan's the first to have anything to do with this case.

Gerard Batten (as one of Symeou's MEPs) has been following this case for years. Including turning up at each of the various court hearings about extradition so as to support the family and be there for any press. There are multiple instances of TV and radio reports being done on it, as well as several Press Association pieces.

He was, you might want to note, the only politician who did that, supported the Symeou family, tried to bring attention to this injustice.

I know because I was the UKIP press officer while all this was going on.

We can actually take it further as well. The "rapporteur" for this law in the European Parliament was Watson, the european head of the Lib Dems. That of course means that both Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne voted for it when they were MEPs.

Then, another case, the Toben case (vile man with vile views, but the Germans tried to get him extradited for something that isn't actually a crime in this country) meant that the EAW was going to violate the traditional "double criminality" required for extradition. It must be a crime here as well as a crime there for extradition to be lawful.

The EAW abolishes double criminality. So, Toben is arrested and held, who pops up in the papers? Chris Huhne, telling us all that this wasn't what the EAW was all about. So, fool, why did you vote for it then?

This really is something that UKIP have been banging on about for years. UKIP were the only British political party to vote against it in the European Parliament.

Yes, it's fair enough to think that we might be a little single minded about Europe, those of us in UKIP. But at least could you pay attention when we tell you, for years upon end, that there really is something seriously wrong with a certain proposal? Like this European Arrest Warrant?

Just as one example: if you get extradited under it you'll not be given bail. No chance, no way. So you'll rot in prison until someone deigns to try you.

Why won't you get bail? You're a flight risk as a foreigner. But, of course, the EAW itself, this thing that delivered you up to be held without bail is the very thing that means you're not a flight risk, doesn't it? Because they can come and get you where you live.

Indeed. Of course, it comes as no surprise to learn that, whilst other countries have put in safeguards, our own spineless politicians and civil servants—led, no doubt, by the traitors who have long occupied the Foreign Office—have breezily signed away the rights of British citizens with no fight at all.
Anger at Britain’s “gold-plating” of the controversial European Arrest Warrant is growing after it emerged that other EU countries have secured significant safeguards for their citizens that are not available to British nationals.

More than 1,000 people in Britain last year were seized by police on the orders of European prosecutors, a 51 per cent rise in 12 months.

Many are accused of trivial crimes overseas such as possessing cannabis or leaving petrol stations without paying. No evidence need be presented in British courts of the alleged offence and judges have few powers to resist the person’s extradition.
Those affected can spend long periods in jail here and abroad for crimes which might not even be prosecuted in this country.
They can also be seized for offences which are not even crimes in Britain.

Although the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was intended to operate in the same way in all 27 EU states, The Sunday Telegraph has established that many other European countries have given themselves “opt-outs” or conditions to protect their citizens.

Well, ain't that a fucking surprise...? Not. And do we think that Our New Coalition Overlords™ will do anything about it? No, we don't. As I pointed out above, some of them voted for the damn thing. And, as Iain pointed out, our Home Secretary has signed up the European Investigation Order—a story that the Telegraph headlines with "Britons to be spied on by foreign police".
The power allows prosecutors from any EU country to demand details such as DNA or even bank and phone records on anyone they suspect of a crime.

Officers in the UK would be almost powerless to refuse the request even if they believed it was disproportionate to the alleged offence being investigated.

Tellingly, at the time when this measure was coming up for consideration, a Home Office spokeswoman said that...
"... the Government will approach legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case-by-case basis, with a view to maximising our country's security, protecting Britain's civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system."

In other words, "we're going to sign up."

How do I know (apart from the fact that it has happened!)? The spokeswoman said that the Coalition would look at "protecting Britain's civil liberties"; not "Britons' civil liberties" or "the civil liberties of British individuals"—it was "Britain's civil liberties". As we all know, a country—a state—cannot have civil liberties: civil liberties pertain to the freedom of the individual.

In any case, as Big Brother Watch have also highlighted, this European Investigation Order does not even require the sign-off of a British judge.
Worst of all, as barrister and former MP Jerry Hayes points out in strong terms, none of this even requires sign-off from a judge:
In its present form the EIO would allow any EU police force to start investigations and gather evidence on UK soil... where it offends against everything we hold sacred, is that no judicial authority is needed to verify whether there are reasonable grounds for an offence to have been committed. In this country the police can’t investigate on a whim, they have to have reasonable grounds to believe that someone is up to no good. So, potentially, every corrupt police officer in the pay of the Mafia in Southern Italy, could come over here, obtain your DNA and bank balances without going to obtain permission from a judge first. Insane. And downright dangerous.

For fuck's sake...

Look, our own police are corrupt, violent, venal thugs with absolutely no interest in defending anyone from fuck-all: there is absolutely no way in hell we should let even more corrupt, violent, venal thugs from the rest of the EU in here to spy on us. I mean, the British police are utterly contemptible but they are paragons of virtue next to the fucking Italian fuzz. Or the Greek ones, for that matter.

Let me spell this out: the state's primary and over-riding purpose is the defence of its citizens. Even were the government to do nothing else at all (please, please...), it should protect British individuals.

It would be bad enough had the government merely proved that it was not able to do so, but it is worse: this government (like the last) is quite simply not willing to do so. Our New Coalition Overlords™ are not willing to protect our citizens, our freedoms and our justice system—indeed, some of them forged our shackles with their own hands. Members of the British government have not only failed to protect our freedoms, they have actively created the instruments of our imprisonment.

And that, my friends, makes them the enemy...

UPDATE: there seems to be some contention over whether or not Dan Hannan did actually vote for the European Arrest Warrant. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the relevant voting records—could anyone with more experience find them...?

UPDATE 2: Dan maintains in the comments to this post, at 10:02 AM, that he didn't vote for the EAW.
I have opposed the EAW consistently. Indeed, I have just been in Athens to meet Andrew Symeou and his mother. I'm afraid I can't remember the vote that DK cites which, from the names, must have been seven or eight years ago; but it can't have been a vote on the EAW.

Glad to hear it. Trixy—the ball's in your court...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Quote of the month

Seen over at Timmy's, I love this source's wonderfully under-stated line about the hiring policies of American Apparel boss, Dov Charney.
One industry insider calls [Charney] an “odious character about whom I have heard nothing but bad things, particularly concerning his recruitment techniques and the way he treats female employees”. There is, he adds, a “certain over-reliance on oral sex during interviews over assessing their retail experience”.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Top 30 Libertarian Blogs

The Devil would like to thank all readers, commenters and contributors...

Yes, it's that time of year again, when Total Politics publishes its Top Blogs lists. And—despite the... er... change in name and tone (and the event that caused it!) and the severe drop in the number of posts—I am very happy to see that your humble Devil is at #3 in the Top 30 Libertarian Blogs list (down one place from last year).

As always when these things come up, I would like to thank all of the contributors—past and present. I, and they, would, of course, like to thank you—the readers and commenters—who contribute so much to the blog (yes, even those who disagree with us). Your humble Devil is, once again, humbled.

There are some excellent blogs on that list: I am particularly pleased to see new entries from good friends such as Charlotte Gore, Chris Snowdon, Mark Wallace and The Nameless Libertarian—excellent bloggers and decent people, all.

Once again, thank you...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What has David Nutt been smoking?

[nb. I am not the Devil's Kitchen]

Do these bone-headed prohibitionists run a one in, one out system or something? It's as if every liberal action has to be accompanied by an equal and opposite illiberal reaction. 

On Monday, Britain's leading temperance nut Ian Gilmore (I refuse to acknowledge his knighthood, as with Alex Ferguson)—a man who has led a non-stop, evidence-free war on the pleasurable vices of booze and tabs—bravely opined that drugs should be decriminalised. (Not that bravely, actually, since he's just stood down as president of the Royal College of Physicians.)

And now we have Prof. David Nutt. He kicked up a stink last year when he said that LSD and ecstasy are safer than alcohol and should be decriminalised. Having annoyed Alan Johnson, the Nutty Professor is now doing his utmost to piss everybody else off with this mephitic pile of heinous horse manure...
The past 50 years have seen the worst epidemic of public harm from a legal drug since the introduction of cheap gin in the 1700s. 

I know what you're thinking—smoking. And you'd be right, but only in a factual sense, and David Nutt exists in another realm altogether. When he said that ecstasy was safer than alcohol, many took him to be pro-drugs. In fact he is just very, very anti-alcohol.
Although alcohol intake has doubled in this period, alcohol related harms have increased many times more on account of the culture of heavy and, particularly, binge drinking that has developed. There are a number of reasons for this epidemic. 

Here's a few off the top my head—people have more money, they get married later in life, religion is on the wane, its more acceptable for women to drink, the government has drastically altered the definition of a binge and the NHS has dramatically altered the definition of both 'alcohol related' diseases and 'alcohol related hospital admissions'. How's that for starters?
The major ones have been the last government’s policies of reducing the real price of alcohol...

Oh, for fuck's sake. How many times have we got to go through this? The real price of alcohol has not fallen. The Office of National Statistics has made this crystal clear:
Between 1980 and 2008, the price of alcohol increased by 283.3%. After considering inflation (at 21.3%), alcohol prices increased by 19.3% over the period.

Alcohol prices may have fallen relative to income but, thanks to the glory of free market capitalism, so has everything. You would have to be naive of economics to confuse that with the 'real price' of alcohol, ie. adjusted for inflation.
...and increasing drinking hours...

Let's have a look at the actual evidence of how much 'binge-drinking' has changed over the years and see if we can find any upsurge since the licensing laws were relaxed.

These tables come from, which concludes:
The striking thing about these tables is how relatively little change they show over 16 years, with the exception of a sharp increase between 2005 and 2006. This is an artefact caused by a revised methodology for converting volumes of alcohol to units, assuming an average wine glass size.

Notice also that the people who are 'binge-drinking' more are aged over 45—not normally the type associated with town centre mayhem—while there has been a sharp drop in the number of young men drinking more than their weekly limits (limits which were, as we all know, based on no evidence at all and were plucked out of thin air). the massive increase in the marketing of alcohol in supermarkets, often as a loss-leader.

I tire of saying this, so please, someone tell me where I can get alcohol below cost-price. I would sincerely love to know. I have a car and am prepared to travel.
So what should the coalition do to reduce the harms of alcohol? Here are my top twenty suggestions:

Let's have a look at some of the best.
Make alcohol a national health priority: current estimates are that the damage from alcohol costs the NHS the order of £20bn per year and the violence it induces cost £7 billion in police time.

That's news to me, Nutty. Last I heard, the alleged cost to the NHS was £2.7 billion, which is a nice little earner for the state because it gets £8.2 billion in alcohol duty. Perhaps Nutter is thinking of NICE's scarcely believable "cost to society" estimate of £27 billion, which was based on spurious "costs" to employers (rather than taxpayers) while ignoring all the billions generated by drinks sales and the night-time economy. 
Increase alcohol tax to bring the cost of alcohol in real terms back to where it was in the 1950s before the progressive rise in consumption started, i.e. gradually, say over 5 years, triple the price. 

You read that right. He's talking about making a pint cost £10 to £15. Leaving aside the fact that Nutt doesn't understand the meaning of "real terms", on what planet is a 60% annual price rise "gradual"? The reason alcohol consumption was low in the 1950s is that it was a miserable age of austerity and no one had any money. I wonder why he would pick this decade as the benchmark for acceptable drinking levels? Could it be that alcohol consumption was unusually low in the 1950s?

Yep, that'll be it. This graph only goes back to 1900, but alcohol consumption was a hell of a lot higher in previous centuries. Aside from brief dips during the First World War and the Great Depression, the 1950s saw the lowest rate of alcohol consumption in British history. All that's happened in the last sixty years is that alcohol consumption has gradually returned to something closer to the historic average. There is no justification for picking the grim 1950s as the norm and only someone blinded by temperance fever would view it as a golden age. 
All available evidence shows that the price of alcohol determines use for almost everyone with the only possible exceptions being severely dependent drinkers. 

A pretty bloody important exception, seeing as they're the ones who are realistically going to die of alcohol-related diseases. Any sane public health policy would focus on the high-risk target group, but since chronic alcoholism is nearly always the result of underlying psychological problems, the crude tax-and-ban policies espoused by the likes of Nutt are as useless. But they help feather the nest and its so much easier to go after the healthy than it is to treat the sick.

If it were true that price was the major determinant of demand for alcohol, the countries with the highest alcohol prices (Britain and Scandinavia, for example) would have the lowest rates of consumption. They don't. Higher prices do nothing to deter those least able to afford to drink (eg. the homeless) or those who are at serious risk of liver cirrhosis and throat cancer (ie. chronic alcoholics). 
The increased health burden of alcohol is largely driven by non-dependent drinkers so would be significantly reduced by an increase in price. I have estimated that the average taxpayer would save the order of £2,000 per year by the reduced costs of alcohol-related harms if we increased the price as suggested. 

Let's see. There are around 30 million taxpayers in the UK. So if each of them saves £2,000, that would be a total saving of £60 billion, which is more than twice the massively inflated NICE estimate. Even if you accept that alcohol costs the taxpayer £27 billion—which would be stupid—and even if you believe that increasing the price of alcohol would prevent all alcohol-related injuries, sick days, diseases and violence—which would be insane—there is no way in this world or the next that every taxpayer is going to save £2,000.
In the case of wine drinkers, only those consuming more than several hundred bottles a year would be worse off with this scheme, and they are drinking at a dangerous level anyway.

Does this guy think we're fucking retarded? Any increase in price is going to make the consumer worse off, whether they buy one bottle or a thousand. Trebling the price—as Nuttcase is suggesting—cannot fail to make all consumers a hell of a lot worse off, especially the poor who are (supposedly) the very people that these health demagogues care most about. Making drink more expensive is, as Sean Gabb has said, nothing more than a regressive tax on the poor.
Stop selling strong alcohol in supermarkets

Use the Swedish model where only alcoholic drinks of less than 3% can be sold outside licensed shops that have more limited opening times than supermarkets. 

That would be the state-owned and state-run Swedish system, which is a notorious pain in the arse for normal people wanting to do their shopping and does nothing to deter alcoholics from drinking themselves to death. No thanks.
Supermarket alcohol sales are not only destroying lives but also public houses and other alcohol outlets where drinking is conducted in a social manner and where intoxication can be monitored and young people can learn to drink socially and more sensibly.

There are few more nauseating sights than seeing health campaigners shed crocodile tears over the decline of pubs. You want to revive pubs? Reduce alcohol tax and amend the smoking ban. It's that simple.
Stop selling wine in larger 250 ml glasses that have crept up on use in recent years - we should go back to smaller glasses again. For a medium size female, 5 large glasses of wine in one hour will lead to a blood alcohol level of 300mg/% which is that needed to produce coma.

I can only concur with Jarkart, who left the following comment on Nuttsack's blog:
I’ve been to the pub with many, many ladies over the years, and I’ve often bought them large white wines in 250ml glasses. Not one has ever slumped into an alcoholic coma. Perhaps you should stop adding the Rohypnol, or would that stop you ever getting laid?

The next one's fairly predictable...
Repeal the 24 hr licensing law so bars close at 11pm.

Aside from the fact that '24 hour drinking' is as much of a myth as 'below-cost alcohol', why should we get rid of the only decent thing that Labour did in thirteen long, long years? Early closing was a war-time policy brought in by Lloyd-George and should have been repealed in 1918. Thanks to an unholy alliance of puritans and factory-owners, it took another 87 years. Good riddance to it. 

Have longer opening hours led to more drinking? No. Have they led to more violence? No. Do people like not having to go to some poxy nightclub to get a drink after 11pm? Yes. So have a glass of shut-the-hell-up and fuck off while you're doing it.
Make it a law that all alcohol outlets must sell non-alcoholic beers and lagers so that those who like the taste of ales can get it without the risk on intoxication. Make these drinks be sold at below the cost of equivalent alcohol-containing ones and make it obvious that they are available.

Believe me, Prof. Nutt, people who "like the taste of ales" are not going to drink non-alcoholic beer. The only time I ever bought one of these concoctions in a pub, it was two years out of date. This, I think, gives a fair indication of how popular they are with pubgoers.  
Add warning notices to all drinks warning of the damage alcohol does, as with those on cigarette packets.

Develop public campaigns to make alcohol unfashionable just as was done for tobacco.

Ban all alcohol advertising as with tobacco.

There's a theme running through these three suggestions but I can't quite put my finger on what it is. Why, it's almost as if he's using the campaign against smokers as a blueprint for a campaign against drinkers. But that can't be so, because we were told that would never happen. I'm sure I remember nonsmoking drinkers telling me that when the smoking ban came in. After all, they said, "everyone likes a drink"..."Drinking's different"..."They wouldn't dare." 

Well, it's happened now, so get in the van with everyone else, you quisling fools. 
Provide incentives to the pharmaceutical industry to develop new treatments for alcohol dependence and its consequences.

Encourage research into developing an alcohol alternative that is less dangerous, intoxicating and addictive than ethanol and for which an antidote or antagonist can be made available to prevent deaths in overdose.

Alcohol patches anyone? David Nutt has shares in GlaxoSmithKline, by the way, although I'm sure that's not at all relevant.
Ban all government supported organisations e.g. universities from having subsidised bars. Ban drinking games and pub-crawls in public organisations such as university sports and social clubs; remove financial support from clubs that allow these.

Hell's teeth in a basket. Nutt must have really been high when he wrote this one down. Even if this idea wasn't a malignant slice of teeth-grinding totalitarianism, how would it be policed? Presumably by stopping groups of two or more people going from one bar to another or by carrying out spot-checks to make sure students aren't combining drinking with—whisper it—fun. Thanks for the window into your mind, Prof Nutt. It's like taking a magnifying glass into a sewer.
Raise the drinking age to 21. When this was done in the USA in the 1990s it was estimated that over 170,00 lives were saved in road deaths.

I never thought I'd sympathise with Alan Johnson but I'm starting to see why he sacked this dolt. His grasp of the facts is appalling. For the record, none of the US states raised the drinking age to 21 in the 1990s. That all happened in the 1980s and the idea that it resulted in any reduction in road fatalities is—to put it very mildly—debatable. David Hanson explains:
It is frequently argued that raising the drinking age to 21 in the U.S. has reduced alcohol-related auto fatalities among young people. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that thousands of lives have been saved by the minimum drinking age of 21. Unfortunately the law hasn't saved any lives at all. Instead, it has shifted alcohol-related fatalities to young people above the minimum drinking age.

Researchers at the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers University found that raising the drinking age to 21 simply shifted fatalities from those aged 18 to 20 to those aged 21 to 24. They concluded, on the basis of their exhaustive federally-funded study, that drinking experience, not drinking age, is the most important factor...

To believe that the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) of 21 is effective is to ignore the facts and live in a fantasy world.

A fantasy world is about right. Hilariously, Nutt's blog is called Evidence Not Exaggeration. Why not go and say hello?

Fake Charity of the Week #1: Tomorrow's People Trust

As some of you may have noticed, is... ah... resting for a space (that site is shifting servers again, and I just haven't had time to sort out the re-install). Fear not, it will be back presently.

In the meantime, an email correspondant has alerted me to a particularly delicious example of a fake charity—the Tomorrow's People Trust. The charity describes itself in the following way:
An independent employment charity which works nationally with the long-term unemployed, helping people overcome personal barriers so that they can move into long-term, sustainable jobs. Our objective is to help those who are furthest from the labour market to get and keep a job, by preparing them for work and supporting them through their individual return-to-work programmes.

The actual document drawn to my attention is an investigation by the Charity Commission into the charity's contribution to the Conservative Manifesto—a document which includes a handy summary of the organisation's funding...
  1. The Charity’s accounts for the financial year ending 31 March 2009 show an income of £7,981,260 and expenditure of £7,620,171. The charity’s income includes £6,717,834 funding from regional Government Offices, local authorities and the London Development Agency.

Well, there's some waste to be cut there, methinks. Except, of course, I am sure that the Tomorrow's People Trust is destined to be a front-runner in Call Me Dave's Big Society...

It is worth noting one of the points in the Charity Commission's judgement too: this states that...
  1. Contributing to an election manifesto or any party political publication would have the inevitable result of providing or encouraging support for a particular political party, or at the very least, the perception of doing so. As a charity cannot support or encourage support for any political party, the Commission is unable to see how a charity could demonstrate that it had sufficiently considered and managed all the risks arising from a decision to contribute to an election manifesto or party political publication.

Well, that's pretty clear, I think...

The story of Polly, the push and the journalistic standards

It seems that poor old Polly Toynbee is rending her garments over the cuts to public services...
The bullying rudeness and sheer nastiness of Eric Pickles, the chill callousness of Francis Maude and the evident relish with which most ministers flourish carving knives at public services advertise their contempt. Time and again public employees hear of their demise in the news, trashing their endeavours without even token regret or thanks for years of service, only raw glee and spurious charges of wastefulness.

If the public servants are so wonderful, then they will get good jobs in the private sector. Or maybe even start up their own companies—creating worthwhile jobs for others.

As Guido pointed out a few days ago, maybe the same will apply to Polly's husband—former Grauniad journalist, David Walker.
He is (for now) the axed Audit Commission’s six-figure salaried Managing Director of Communications and Public Reporting, basically an upmarket spinner. With a household joint-income in the top 1% and some ten times the national average, her husband’s looming unemployment must put her in fear for their multi-million pound property portfolio – the £2.4m London townhouse, the villa in Tuscany, not forgetting the holiday home in upmarket Lewes, Sussex. Thank god Polly and David no longer have to worry about their Amy’s private school fees. How will they cope?

How indeed?

And how is it, I wonder, that Polly can continue to write columns excoriating Our New Coalition Overlords™ whilst failing to declare such a blatant conflict of interest...?

P.S. Timmy points out that dearest Polly shows that Hayek was right, and that markets beat central management for efficiency and effectiveness.

Yes, that's right: it's a typical Polly article in which she contradicts herself even within the few hundred words that she has churned out today—she manages to bemoan the cutting of central government, whilst simultaneously demonstrating why those cuts are justified.

Not, you understand, that she realises this...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taxing Richard Murphy

Most of us would like to minimise our tax burden and, indeed, the government actually provides a number of ways in which one can do so. One of the single best ways in which one can do so is to incorporate, i.e. to become a company.

How does that work?

Well, you can arrange your affairs in a number of ways but, broadly speaking, one of the best ways is as follows:
  1. incorporate
  2. pay yourself, as a director, a minimal salary (a little under £5,000),
  3. at this level, you still accrue National Insurance credits, i.e. you get money put towards a state pension, but you don't actually have to pay any National Insurance Contributions,
  4. pay your corporation tax
  5. pay the rest of the money out as dividends to shareholders (yourself),
  6. on which you will pay less tax than on ordinary income.

Well, that is the gist of the thing. Obviously, it's not so easy unless you have figures to illustrate the above.

Luckily, Richard Murphy wrote just such an article for The Observer, back in 2005 (so, obviously, the figures will have changed: your tax accountant (should you have one) will be able to update these).
The way that the saving is achieved is fairly straightforward. An individual in self- employment pays three taxes on profit. They are income tax, class 2 national insurance and class 4 national insurance. On £30,000 of profit the income tax is £5,354 this year, class 2 national insurance is £104 and class 4 national insurance is £1,777, a total of £7,235.

If a limited company makes the same profit it can pay its owner in one of two ways. If it paid out all £30,000 as a salary then there would again be three taxes, being income tax (£4,764), employer's national insurance (£2,679) and employee's national insurance (£2,271). That's a total of £9,714, which is £2,479 more than the self-employed pay.

But, if the company is run with strong discipline, and keeps good accounts, then dividends can be substituted for most of the salary paid in the previous example. Just enough salary is still paid to make sure that the director is credited with paying national insurance - currently £4,615 - although no national insurance (or tax) is actually paid on this. That leaves a profit of £25,385 in the company on which corporation tax of £3,654 is paid. This is low because the first £10,000 of profit generated by a small limited company is tax-free.

That means a dividend of £21,731 can then be paid. Because that level of dividend does not take the recipient into the higher rate bracket, he or she does not have to pay any additional income tax on the dividend. The only tax paid will be the company's corporation tax bill of £3,654, which is £3,581 less than the self-employed person pays.

All of this is perfectly legal, of course. And, personally, I'd go further—I'd describe it as perfectly laudable.

After all, arranging your affairs so that the government can steal as little of your money as possible not only leaves you with more cash (which you will spend far more wisely than the state) but also ensures that our lords and master have fewer resources with which to oppress the rest of us.

The trouble is, you see, that Richard Murphy would not agree with you.

Richard, apparently, thinks that you have a moral duty to pay as much tax as you can and that tax avoidance is just as bad as tax evasion.

And the operative word in that sentence is "you". Because, as Timmy reports, Richard Murphy does seem to believe in minimising his own tax payments.
So, what do we find from Companies House about the directorships of one R. Murphy?
Fulcrum Publishing Ltd:

“Publishes original written materials”, seems to have been his old vehicle for paid writing.

Jointly owned 50:50 by Ritchie and Jacqueline Murphy (same address, born 1963, presumably his wife).

Hasn’t traded since 2003, but when it was trading it paid out all of its profits as dividends. Incorporation and taking dividends from the company instead of a salary is a classic tax/NI avoidance strategy—as he set out in his Observer article.

I wonder how much of the company’s work his wife did, or whether giving her shares was just a device to save tax by transferring half of the income to her? Did “the rewards paid [to her] match the underlying economic substance” (Ritchie’s own test of whether incorporation is “abusive”)? It seems unlikely that she was generating 50% of the profits from his writing.

It’s difficult to see what legitimate non-tax reason he would have for incorporation, and (as he said in his reply to you) he regularly argues against incorporation—for other people.

(Via email, so no link).

Yes, yes: but this all stopped in 2003, didn't it. So the author of The Missing Billions [PDF]—a report on the tax gap authored on behalf of the Trades Union Congress—is definitely not doing any of this stuff now, eh?

What? What did you say...?
But wait, I hear the call. This all stopped in 2003 didn’t it?

Well, yes, with Fulcrum, yes, it did.
The Tax Gap Ltd (formerly Tax Research Ltd):

Carries out “social science research”. Shares owned 90% Ritchie, 10% Jacqueline.

Paid out small (£3-4k) directors’ salaries in 2005, 2006 & 2007 (another classic tax/NI avoidance strategy, keeping the salary under the personal allowance).

Paid out a £12,000 dividend in 2006 (classic NI avoidance strategy, to take money out as NI-exempt dividend rather than salary).

Profits of nearly £13,000 retained in the company (another classic tax avoidance strategy, to delay paying dividends until a year when your income is below the higher rate threshold).

Oh. If we are to continue our speculation about GPs and maternity pay, we might assume that income shifting is now not a useful strategy. For why shift income to someone who is already in the higher tax band? But we do note the other parts of the Observer technique. Low directorial salaries, enough that the director is credited with having paid NI (ie, that State pension accruals continue) without having to actually pay NI and then the rest of the profit being paid out as dividends.

And do note again, the tax free first £10k of profits was abolished in 2006, so at least in 2005 the first £10k of dividends would have been entirely free of either corporation tax or basic rate income tax.


Now, one might think that all of this might reveal Richard Murphy to be a colossal hypocrite but, of course, you would be wrong—as darling Ritchie makes absolutely clear in his reply to the "torrents of abuse" [sic] that is Timmy's article.
I note the right wing blogosphere is seeking yet again to question my integrity...

Well, I think that it probably started out as just Timmy in this instance—although I am sure that others have joined in since then. Although, I am glad to add my voice to what is, quite literally, the entire "right wing blogosphere"—after all, I have regularly questioned Murphy's sanity and intelligence, since October 2006.

The substance of Ritchie's rebuttal is that he has changed his mind since those dark days when all he wanted to do was to keep his earnings out of the taxman's grip. Alas, he does not elaborate on what caused this Damascene conversion—although I suspect that it has less to do with a soft heart than it has to do with raking in the ackers.

The rest of his post is basically an ad hominem against the entire liberal blogosphere for "seeking to play the man".
First of all – as I’ve often said the issue is one of intimidation – they seek to propagate the message that if anyone stands up to their vicious form of capitalism they will seek to crush them. So much for a belief in liberty! It takes courage to stand up to such behaviour. They know that. They want to stop others entering the fray by behaving as they do.

Ah, yes: we occasionally use some bad behaviour. We do, also, expect people to practice what they preach—and we will tend to look at evidence as to whether they do or not. This is all very intimidating.

But here's the rub, Ritchie: it is central to our philosophy that you be able to do what the hell you want. Sure, we might lob some nasty names at you—for avoiding tax whilst trying to ensure that no one else can, for instance—and we may even point out that, if you think tax is so wonderful, you might like to donate some extra money to the state.

But what we do not do, Ritchie-poppet, is work to ensure that you are forced to do what we want. We don't attempt to influence the state to take more money from you; we don't spend our time lobbying and encouraging others to use force, violence and extortion in order to satisfy our personal philosophies.

Whereas you do, Ritchie—and that is why you are so very dangerous. And it isn't only that your philosophy is, at root, fundamentally evil: it is that you and your kind are pushing at an open door—money is power, and politicians do not need any excuses to give themselves more power.

You see yourself as some sort of crusader, eh? One of a small band of brave warriors making a stand against the evil liberals who would "crush our current democratic way of life in the UK, Europe and beyond".

You deluded fool.

The only things being crushed are the hopes and dreams of individual people who find that, try as they might, their lives are less and less theirs as the months go on: with every passing year, the liberty of individuals is removed as they find themselves more and more slaves of the state.

But I don't expect you to understand this, Murphy: I don't think that you have the intelligence to understand it. But more than that: I think that you are ideologically capable of understanding it.

Because, as far as I am concerned, people (like you) who venerate the will of the demos over the freedoms of the individual—those who believe that the tyranny of the majority always justifies the oppression of the few—are rather more than "flawed like the rest of us": they are evil bastards.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

There is another option

Apparently councils are being told that they aren't going to get so much money from central government.

Now, when funding is being cut, there are two routes that organisations could take:
  1. raise more money
  2. stop spending so much money

Which route do you think that our local councils are going to take...?

That's right: they are going for the raise more money route. And one of the ideas that they have come up with is that private businesses should pay for any free parking that they supply to their employees.
Initially, the parking levy was seen as a way to tackle congestion and cut carbon emissions. Now, there is growing evidence it is also being seen as a source of extra cash. Nottingham City Council will be the first council to impose a £250 levy on local employers, from 2012. Within two years, the bill will rise to £350 and will target all companies with 11 or more parking spaces.

A Daily Telegraph investigation found many other councils are now preparing to follow suit.
Bristol City Council, for example, in its draft strategy, describes the levy as a "revenue stream" to help fund other transport initiatives.

Under proposals being considered by York City Council, the charge would be paid "by the employer or charged to the employee".

I absolutely cannot see how York City Council could possibly charge employees for parking on their employers' private land; sure, they could charge the employers, and the employers could pass that charge onto their employees, but that's not quite the same. But again, I don't really see how any council can be allowed to dictate the uses to which anyone puts their own, private land.
Hampshire County Council, meanwhile, is considering a "modest"—but unspecified—charge for the south of the region, including Southampton and Portsmouth, to, says a consultation document, "redress the imbalance between free commuter parking for some staff at office complexes" and "parking for other staff in public spaces where payment is required".

Yeah, well, the public spaces can be charged for by the council because the council owns the public spaces. It does not own private land.

Further, if Hampshire County Council really wanted to "redress the imbalance between free commuter parking for some staff at office complexes" and "parking for other staff in public spaces where payment is required", then it could simply stop charging for the public spaces, couldn't they?

But no, that wouldn't work, would it? For how else would councils be able to employ people to sit around on their arses all day, or go off sick for six months at a time?
Here, one employee for a large inner London authority lifts the lid on the culture of inertia and incompetence at his workplace. The Mail knows the true identity of the man - a graduate who has been a planning officer for eight years. But to protect his job, he is writing under an assumed name.

Monday morning, it's 10am and I'm late for work - but there's no point hurrying because even though I should have been at my desk 30 minutes ago, I know I'll be the first to arrive at the office.

Our department has 60 employees and—until last Tuesday—a budget of £22million.

I've been there for two years and in that period the only time I've ever seen every employee present and correct was at the Christmas party.

At least ten people will be off sick on any one day. The departmental record holder is Doreen - she has worked a grand total of eight days in 14 months.

Doreen must be the unluckiest woman in the country.

In the past year and a half she claims she has: fallen victim to frostbite; been hit by a car; and accidentally set herself on fire.
But she's really pulled out all the stops with her latest excuse: witchcraft. That's right, Doreen believes somebody in Nigeria has cast a spell on her and that it would be unprofessional of her to attempt to do the job she is paid £56k a year for while under the influence of the spell.

She has already been off for four months on full pay. I've no idea how long this spell lasts, but my guessing would be six months to the day - the exact amount of time council employees can take off on full pay before their money is reduced.
But having just eight weeks of full pay left won't be a problem for Doreen and the rest of the council's sickly staff - they'll simply return to work when the six months is up, put in a day or two's work and then go off sick for another six months on full pay again. Easy.

All credit to the bright-eyed young HR manager who, last year, wanted to dismiss a senior employee who had been off sick for three months.

The employee had still been using his company mobile phone, from Marbella.

However, the employee was able (with a little help from the mighty Unison union) to argue that there's no reason why 'sick' people can't rent villas in the Costa Del Sol.

Back to the day's business. Jerry is the next to arrive at 10.25am - before he takes his jacket off he performs his morning ritual of taking both his phones off the hook.

God forbid that any resident and council tax payer should be able to speak to him and get some of the advice he's paid £64k a year to dispense.

Jerry is 63 and two years from retirement. He is what is known in the civil service and local government as an 'untouchable' - he's been at the council for more than 40 years, does no work, but would cost an absolute fortune to get rid of.

So he's left alone to play online poker, Skype his daughter in Florida and take his two-hour daily snooze at his desk, no doubt dreaming of the day when his gold-plated public sector pension will kick in.

If you think Jerry's pay is generous, consider this: the head of my department is on an annual salary of £170k plus bonuses, his deputy nets £99k and even the office PAs are on a very respectable £38k - just two thousand less than I get.

Although it's two years since I started working for this authority I've also worked for two other London boroughs in various capacities over a period of 12 years. In that time I've never known anybody be sacked, no matter how inept and unprofessional they may be.

Next week there is a two-day course on 'letter writing skills' - I dearly hope that Jackie, our departmental PA, will attend this one. I've given up using her and now type my own correspondence and reports.

The last time she typed a letter for me (to an architect) she misspelt 'accommodation' and 'environment' throughout.

I gently pointed this out to her and asked her to redo the document. But she went sick for two weeks with stress, complaining that she was being bullied.

When my boss called me in to discuss this I, jokingly, said: 'Well I'll just let her misspell everything in future, shall I?' To which he replied: 'Yes, I think that's best for now.'

The cuts and pay freezes are desperately needed, but the one thing Mr Osborne will never be able to control is the culture of inertia and inefficiency that is rife throughout the public sector.

Of course, when I tell my friends in the private sector about my working conditions, they can scarcely believe it. As the recession bites, they consider themselves lucky to be holding on to their jobs, and are willing to work extra hours or take a pay freeze to ensure their firm's survival.

In the public sector, though, there is no competitive edge; no incentive to cuts costs or improve efficiency. Few genuinely fear for their job security, protected as they are by threats of union action every time the axe looks likely to fall.

In my authority's borough, the average householder pays £1,330 a year in council tax. I'm sure they'd be thrilled to know that they're funding Jerry's internet gambling and Doreen's never-ending sick pay.

Indeed. And now anyone who parks at work will be paying extra for council workers to sit about and do fuck all.

I defy anyone to read the above-linked article (of which I have only quoted the highlights) and declare that councils have no room to cut budgets; they do and they could do so, if the people at the top were not just as corrupt, venal, lazy and stupid as their overpaid, ignorant, work-shy underlings.

And supporting all of this waste and venality, of course, are the trade unions—most especially Unison. Who are, it seems, are continuing to be paid millions of pounds in "re-structuring" funds. This is, in itself, a very bad move for the Coalition: you don't make pacts with crooks, or try to buy off these devils—their power needs to be strangled and their funds destroyed.

Then, if anyone has the will, we can start going through these public bodies and sack 90% of the staff and whittle their responsibilities down to the bare essentials and nothing more.

Something, as they say, has got to be done. And that something does not involve levying yet more taxes on an already over-burdened population in order to piss it away on useless, feckless wastes of space.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Oh look! It's Johann Hari...

... bending the truth again.
[Richard Littlejohn] also argues that the safety record in Chinese factories is much preferable to the “‘Elf N Safety” in British factories. We are talking about a system where 600,000 people are worked to death every year...

I don't suppose that there is any chance that we could send Hari on a fact-finding mission to China, so that he can work beside the Chinese and see this first-hand?

No? Oh well.

In any case, dear little Johann is being somewhat economical with th... Oh, fuck it! Let's just be straight about this, eh?—as Timmy points out at some length, Johann Hari is lying again.

Now, a lot of people might think that I have been unfairly targeting Hari—that I have been pointing out little Johann's mistakes for my own perverse pleasure. I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth: I am simply helping Hari on his journey towards personal betterment...
Since reading Schultz's book, I have been trying harder to train myself to think systematically about my own mistakes. Every week, I make a list of what I have got wrong, personally or professionally, and try to figure out how to get it right next time.

You see? I come not to hinder Hari, but to help him.

Plus, of course, it does amuse me...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

No shit

Via Dick Puddlecote, I see that someone has woken up to the idea that speed cameras might actually cause accidents.
Eighty-one per cent of respondents to the insurer’s survey admitted to instantly looking at their speedometers, instead of the road, on detecting a speed camera and one in twenty admitted to braking suddenly, risking losing control of their vehicle or a rear-end shunt.

In other news, the Pope is still Catholic and bears do shit in the woods.

And what is the scale of the problem...?
The insurer estimates that at least 28,000 road accidents have been triggered by the cameras since 2001 and nearly one in three motorists questioned said they had witnessed an accident or near miss as a result of other drivers’ erratic behaviour when faced with one of the cameras.

Close to half of motorists surveyed believe the cameras divert attention away from other areas of driving while one in ten claim that speed cameras increase the risk of an accident.

Speed cameras cause accidents by distracting drivers from the road in front of them and causing them to drive erratically.

This is far more likely to cause an accident than travelling at 45mph in a 40mph area.

In other news, water is—apparently—wet...

Monday, August 09, 2010

Not just dangerous—stupid and corrupt as well

To follow on from my last piece on Catherine Bennett and Harriet Bradley, my impecunious and peripatetic Athenian friend has dug a little deeper and found that the whole article is even more insulting and poisonous than even I had thought.

Do go and read the whole thing but—in the manner of the very best debaters (of which, I am assured, the poor little Greek boy is one)—Mr Eugenides's summary admirably encapsulates the entire sorry debacle in a few pithy sentences.
So, just to recap: a woman who used to live with a lord in a 365-room mansion, now in a household with a combined income of some quarter of a million pounds a year, has read a PR puff commissioned and paid for to advertise a price comparison website, and uses this as evidence that we should all just take what we're given by the state and shut up.

Welcome to the world of chattering-class leftism, readers.

That's right—chattering-class leftism involves fascism, gullibility, corruption, stupidity, massive riches and utterly piss-poor writing. I just can't imagine why everyone isn't bought into this...

Can you?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Wow. Just wow.

Now, for those of you who have not had the pleasure, Sunny Hundal—of Pickled Politics and Liberal Conspiracy fame—is a social democrat who supports (amongst other things supported by state violence) the smoking ban, lots of income redistribution and high taxes and is a man who believes that "expanding the size of the welfare state ... was one of New Labour’s greatest achievements."

Now, thanks to Obnoxio, I have found this utterly incredible tweet.

Yep, that is Sunny Hundal maintaining that...
I've not argued for state using force on its own citizens

Just wow.

What a strange hero

Margaret Hodge: "I love the sound of children screaming in the morning."

In a depressingly self-serving article, Brown's pollster and shyster, Deborah Mattinson, wibbles on about immigration.

Most insultingly, however, she builds Margaret Hodge MP into some kind of people's champion.
Mrs Hodge was a local hero: here, at last, was a politician who was prepared to listen to voters and speak out on their behalf.

Obnoxio points out that she was, essentially, just someone who said what the public wanted to hear—which is, of course, being a politician through and through.

However, long-time readers of The Kitchen will know that your humble Devil has a loathing for Margaret Hodge for entirely another reason—one that is laid out in this Telegraph article at some length (and also in this Grauniad timeline).
All right-thinking people like to imagine, when hearing stories of the maltreatment of children, that they themselves would guarantee sanctuary. But often they simply don't. A senior social worker, Liz Davies, and her manager, David Cofie, first told Margaret Hodge, then leader of Islington council, in 1990 of their suspicions that there was widespread sexual abuse of children in Islington care homes.

Ms Hodge instead believed senior officials who assured her that nothing was the matter. In 1992, the London Evening Standard published extensive evidence of the abuse, which Ms Hodge denounced as "a sensationalist piece of gutter journalism". In 1995, an independent report found that the council had indeed failed to investigate the allegations properly.

As the author notes, in 2003 Tony Blair appointed Margaret Hodge to be the first ever Minister For Children which remains, in my opinion, possibly the cheekiest "fuck you" that Chuckles ever doled out to the British people.

That Margaret "la-la-la, I can't hear the screams of the children being raped" Hodge would accept such a post is adequate enough to tell you what a shameless little shit she is—even without her dog-whistle, BNP-aping whining in previous elections.

So, whilst Margaret Hodge was prepared to "prepared to listen to voters and speak out on their behalf", she was not, apparently, prepared to listen to staff members who told her that there was systematic child abuse going on in the care homes run by the Council that she headed up. And so she just let it continue.

There is no real point to this post, other than to remind people what this disgusting woman actually stands for: to keep foremost in people's minds that Margaret Hodge represents BNP-style immigration laws and systematic child abuse.

NHS Fail Wail

I think that we can all agree that the UK's response to coronavirus has been somewhat lacking. In fact, many people asserted that our de...